Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Most Excellent Theophilus

Lee Dahn has created a new blog, Most Excellent Theophilus

Welcome Lee. This blog is designed by Lee Dahn to be a companion to my blog. I am honored. Lee also has another blog, New Testament Studies,
that has addressed some difficult questions of interpretation with a refreshing viewpoint. Lee and I disagree as to whether Luke presents Jesus as the high priest but I have been reviewing very closely the arguments presented by Crispin Fletcher-Louis. I still believe, in agreement with I. Howard Marshall, that Luke does not present Jesus as the high priest.

I have yet to write detailed comments about the nature of blogging. I suppose for me the nature will change and there will be more interaction between Lee Dahn and I. If so, the interaction, and I guess this would be called debate, should be interesting and lively. It should permit us to set forth the extent of our agreement and disagreement of who is Most Excellent Theophilus, when and why Luke wrote to him. Hopefully other people will join the debate and express their valuable views, which will further define the scope and nature of what it means to blog.

By the time I develop my comments on the nature of this new type of blogging, its nature will change again into something new and perhaps more interesting.

copyrighted 2005

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Hill Country

I have wondered why Luke alone among the NT writers uses the phrase “hill county” as a geographic description. Somewhere I noted in my research that this expression described: “The highland area of Judah between the Hill Country of Ephraim and the Negeb, bordered on W. by the Shephelah, on E. by Wilderness of Judah.”

My question is this: Does Luke have any other purpose in mind in using this phrase in Luke 1:39 and 1:65?

copyrighted 2005

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Josephus Dependent on Luke

Yesterday, in my blog, Rewriting Sacred History, I presented my argument for Josephus being dependent on Luke. Steve Mason, I would say, believes Luke is dependent on Josephus.

In one argument advanced by Mason, he asks about Paul’s discussion with Felix of “justice, self-control, and coming judgment”[i], “Why these themes in particular, and not the resurrection of Jesus or faith in Christ, which dominate the book elsewhere?” He answers his own question: “Their significance would not be lost on the reader who knew Josephus’ accounts.”[ii]

“What is peculiar here is that the narrative of Acts almost assumes knowledge of an account such as Josephus’.”[iii] Later in the same paragraph, Mason states: “An intriguing question, then, is: What did the author of Acts expect his readers to know in advance?”

The problem with this argument, “Why these themes in particular, and not the resurrection of Jesus or faith in Christ, which dominate the book elsewhere?” is that Mason conveniently overlooks the verse preceding the verse he cites in support of his argument.

Acts 24:24 states: “And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ.”

I do plan to address Mason’s arguments in detail but I thought I would address the one that started me thinking about the dependency question three years ago.

[i] Acts 24:25.
[ii] Mason, Steve, Josephus and the New Testament, (Peabody, 1992), 114.
[iii] Mason, 114.

copyrighted 2005

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Rewriting Sacred Scriptures

Over the past three months I have written a number of blogs on the subject of how Josephus treated material obtained from his sources. Today I will summarize my findings.

Josephus addressed the War of the Jews to persons residing in the Roman Diaspora. Mason notes that Josephus has a problem of “conflicting loyalties.” “He resolves the problem deftly, by developing an interpretation of the Jewish war that allows him both to remain loyal to his patrons and to speak as a committed Jew. His essential thesis (War 1.9-12) is that the revolt was caused by only a few trouble-makers among the Jews--power-hungry tyrants and marauders who drove the people to rebel against their will. The vast majority of Jews, he contends, have always been peace-loving, devoted to the Roman virtues of order and harmony. Those who fomented revolt were aberrations from true Judaism. They introduced innovations in the ancestral customs and polluted God’s temple by their actions. So in destroying Jerusalem and its temple the Romans were acting as God’s agents, bringing divine punishment for the outrageous actions of a few rebels.”[i]

The following are the persons, groups and movements mentioned by Josephus in War:

Judas son of Ezekiel (Ant. 17:271-272; War 2:56).
Simon of Peraea (Ant. 17:273-276; War 2:57-59).
A movement similar to the group led by Simon of Peraea (Ant. 17:277; War 2:59).
Athronges (Ant. 17:278-285; War 2:60-65).
Judas of Galilee (Ant. 18:4-9, 23-25; War 2:117-118)[Acts 5:37].
The Egyptian false prophet (Ant. 20:169-172; War 2:261-263)[Acts 21:38].
The religious enthusiasts who led their followers into the wilderness (Ant. 20:167-168; War 2:258-260).
Manaemos (Menahem), son of Judas the Galilee (War 2:433-440).
Simon bar Giora (War 4:514-544, 556ff, 763ff and elsewhere).
John of Gischala (War 4:389ff and elsewhere).
Jonathan the Weaver (War 7:437-450; Life 424-424).
Rome-hating imposters (War 2:264-265).
A false prophet in Jerusalem who prophesied God’s salvation even after the burning of the Temple (War 6:285).

Josephus has described thirteen persons, groups or movements that could be included in the category of “power-hungry tyrants and marauders who drove the people to rebel against their will.” Josephus has transferred blame for the war from the temple establishment, of which he was a ranking member and one who was selected to be one of the generals in the war against Rome, to what might be called a group of messianic pretenders, although Josephus calls them trouble-makers. Since Josephus relied heavily on sources, there is reason to believe that even his idea for resolving his problem had its origin in a document Josephus found circulating in Rome when he arrived there after the war. Furthermore, and this needs to be developed, this document contained the phrase, “many shall come in my name.”

Josephus is in fact responding to the NT and in particular to Luke-Acts. However the evidence that supports this bold statement is totally unexpected. Just recently, I realized that Josephus has rewritten the story of the flood[ii] to eliminate all references to the covenant with God[iii] as he did with the covenant of circumcision.[iv] In Judaism, the rite of circumcision is the sign of covenant between God and Abraham.[v] In Book One, God charged Abram “that they should be circumcised in the flesh of their foreskin.” However according to Josephus the purpose is “to keep his posterity unmixed with others.”[vi]

The promise of the land was one of the most basic elements of the Abrahamic Covenant. In Genesis 17:8 this everlasting quality of the covenant was again related directly to the promise of the land: “The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you . . ..” This land theology, first set forth in the stories of the patriarchs, is a major theme of the Biblical history of Israel. However, in Josephus’ treatment of the patriarchal period, “the covenant with the patriarchs, all of which describe covenant in terms of land promise, Josephus connects Moses with the patriarchs through a totally unscriptural reconstruction of a dream, in which God reassures Amram by reviewing the providential care He had given to Abraham” citing Ant. II, 212-13.[vii] Josephus never used the term “covenant.”[viii] There is a complete absence of the concept of the land covenant and, as noted, of the covenant of circumcision.

Josephus re-worked the story of Lot. You may recall that Lot was the nephew of Abraham who moved away from Abraham to the city and region of Sodom, became a civilian captive when the region becomes engaged in war, was rescued by Abraham and later by two angels although he had not been circumcised. Josephus has made several minor changes to the story and one change for no apparent reason. Josephus mentions Lot in Ant. 1.6.5; 1.9.1ff; and 1.11.4 - the latter being most significant. In Jos. Ant. 1.9.1ff, we read that Lot "had come to assist the Sodomites". Likewise, in 1.11.4, we read that Lot "lived a miserable life, on account of his having no company, and his want of provisions". Anyone vaguely familiar with Genesis would not recognize the rewriting done by Josephus and they would ask why?

I blogged separately on the “Abomination of Desolation” and how the prophecy of the Lucan Jesus was fulfilled as shown by the descriptive details provided by Josephus in War. I further noted that the “abomination of desolation,” as the gospel writers use the term, means the same as “pollution of the Temple” mentioned by Josephus. I also noted that Josephus believed in the veracity of Daniel 7-12.[ix] In fact, Josephus considered Daniel to be one of the greatest of the prophets.[x] In his Wars of the Jews, which furnishes a full account of the struggle from his perspective on the Roman side, Josephus sees the miseries of the city as the fulfillment of an ancient oracle, which Josephus, in his later work, Antiquities of the Jews, named Daniel as the source of this oracle.[xi] However, Josephus in his rewriting of Daniel conveniently omitted chapter 7 and the “son of man” phrase while including Daniel 1-6 and 8-9. Not only did Josephus omit the “son of man” phrase appearing in Daniel 7, he also omitted the 104 other occurrences of this exact phrase, appearing throughout the Sacred History (OT), which he rewrote.

Furthermore Josephus has eliminated all references to a messiah including all references to a son of David. Josephus “had made a point of deleting and altering Biblical passages in order to nullify attribution of an eternal or messianic character’s to David’s line.”[xii] King Saul is more important in the writings of Josephus than either David or Moses. Saul, of course is the name by which the Jewish community knows Paul. Finally Josephus has targeted as his audience the Diaspora that was the same audience targeted by Paul with considerable success.
Josephus has also changed the depictions of the deaths of Enoch[xiii], Moses[xiv] and Elijah.[xv] This rewriting was a response by Josephus to the views of the early church about the death and resurrection of Jesus. This rewriting is directed particularly at Luke because only Luke includes unmistakable references to Enoch, Moses, Elijah, Lot, the Diaspora, covenant-rooted ingathering of the exiles, and a circumcised messiah out of the house of David.

I suggest that all of this rewriting is an attempt by Josephus to answer the "New Covenant" of the NT. If there is no old covenant, as evidenced by the rewritten sacred scriptures, there can be no new covenant. Bamberger[xvi] suggested that the decline of Jewish nationality with the loss of the Temple in 70 led to a reorientation toward a religious rather than a political definition. Josephus participated in the reorientation by lending his support to Jewish proselytism by undermining the theological premises relied upon by the followers of Jesus.

Amaru concludes that Josephus was influenced by his aversion to the contemporary revolt of the revolutionaries against Rome and consequently shifted the stress, in his paraphrase of the Bible, from the covenanted land of Israel, which was so central to the revolutionaries, to the biblical personalities themselves, to the role of the Diaspora, and to the great increase in Jewish population due to proselytism. His moral is that disobedience of the law leads to expulsion or dispersion without a covenant-rooted ingathering of exiles; and there is no link with, or even mention of, a messiah out of the house of David.[xvii]

I have placed in bold type for emphasis the conclusions of Amaru critical to my conclusions.

Denova stated that the role of Paul in Acts “is to complete the ingathering of the exiles of the Diaspora and to bring hope of salvation to god-fearing Gentiles.”[xviii] Paul therefore travels to the synagogues of the Diaspora. The Apostolic Council “dictates that salvation for Gentiles is found in God’s promises to Israel.”[xix] Luke “accomplishes this by not offering a Law-free mission to the Gentiles but by offering Gentiles specific ties that bind them to the Law.”[xx] “Outside the context of synagogues, there is no direct mission to Gentiles in Acts that results in the establishment of a Gentile Christian community.”[xxi] This is true because the message of Paul “only has meaning within the context of Judaism.”[xxii] Denova concludes her book with these words: “Luke-Acts, we may conclude on the basis of a narrative-critical reading, was written by a Jew to persuade other Jews that Jesus of Nazareth was the messiah of Scripture and that the words of the prophets concerning ‘restoration’ have been ‘fulfilled.’”[xxiii]

Antiquities was directed to the Greek-speaking world as an apologia for Judaism and Jewish history. Against Apion was written as a defense of Judaism. According to Feldman, Jewish missionaries utilized both works.[xxiv]

Rodney Stark, using his solid background in the sociology of religion, has shown that the mission to the Jews probably succeeded.[xxv] Furthermore, the principle of cultural continuity and the principle that “Social movements grow much faster when they spread through social network”[xxvi] do provide a partial explanation for the explosive growth of Christianity. The network growth rate exhibited by Christianity has been confirmed by the Mormon example.[xxvii] Stark has shown that “Christianity offered twice as much cultural continuity to the Hellenized Jews as to Gentiles.”[xxviii] Stark stated, and his conclusion is well documented, “that not only was it the Jews of the diaspora who provided the initial basis for the church growth during the first and early second centuries, but that Jews continued as a significant source of Christian converts until at least as late as the fourth century and that Jewish Christianity was still significant in the fifth century.”[xxix]

Furthermore, Stark demonstrated how successful networking occurred by comparing the expansion of Christianity in large urban areas with a significant Diasporan Jewish population with large urban areas with no significant Diasporan Jewish population. “There is a powerful, positive correlation (.69) between synagogues and Christianization.”[xxx] Trebilco has documented the existence of these communities.[xxxi] Not only has Stark written a provocative book challenging the assumptions of biblical scholars about the rise of Christianity, he has conclusively established that the Jewish people were the source of converts during the first five centuries.

Luke proclaims the significance of Jesus' words and deeds in the context of Old Testament prophecy, which argument would only be impressive to an audience that already believed and respected the text as sacred. Only a Jew would listen to an argument based on the fulfillment of the promises to David through Jesus the Messiah. Jesus' royal Davidic status would not impress a Gentile, but the Jewish community would entertain such an argument. Josephus rewrote sacred scripture to undercut the force of this argument.

The early part of Acts (1-15) was not written for Gentiles. Acts is not particularly edifying for Gentile Christians with its proclamation: “to the Jews first and also the Greek.” This is, in fact, corroborated by the concepts of cultural continuity, expansion through preexisting social networks and the findings of Rodney Stark. For the reasons presented by Stark, the first missionaries concentrated on Hellenized Jews. The audience of Luke-Acts was predominantly of Jewish background[xxxii] as was the target of Stark's missionaries. A number of scholars have challenged the essentially Gentile composition of the Lucan audience by noting the Judaic roots of Christianity as emphasized by Luke. Fletcher-Louis writes, “there is a growing consensus, spearheaded by the work of Jacob Jervell, that accepts essential interaction with Jewish concerns and a Jewish readership.”[xxxiii]

Hans Conzelmann has stated that “ . . . the principle difficulty for a mutual understanding between Judaism and Christianity consists precisely in the fact that they have the same fundamental ideas and concepts: there is one God, who . . . has chosen one people. . ..”[xxxiv] Conzelmann has noted that J. Geffcken established in 1907 with Zwei griechische Apologeten “the continuity between Jewish and Christian apologetic in their motifs and arguments” recognizing that “Indeed, this continuity derives from the fact that monotheism and the Old Testament are the common denominators between Jews and Christians.”[xxxv] There would be no continuity in motifs and arguments of their apologetics if there were not a close cultural continuity derived and maintained from ongoing recruitment. Yet it is because they have the “same fundamental ideas and concepts” that cultural continuity exists. Cultural continuity made it so easy to recruit in the preexisting social networks represented by the Jewish communities.

As noted by Louis Feldman, even after the empire became Christian, “The Jews continued to engage successfully in winning proselytes and especially ‘sympathizers’ to their ranks – a genuine tribute to their inherent vitality.”[xxxvi]

In his Gospel, Luke showed considerable interest in those people who were the religious outcasts of Jewish society. These people although Jewish were excluded from participation in the religious life of the community because of their status. The new Jewish sect targeted the religious outcasts. It also targeted those people whom Luke has identified as 'God-fearers', not without conflicts. Perhaps to the extent that there was a body of people who were not Jewish but who nonetheless attended the synagogues, then Judaism and Christianity in accepting converts from this group each felt the other was stealing their prospects and members. These tensions explain the many passages in Acts where conflict erupted between the Jews and Paul over his proselytizing activities. Evidence of such jealousy appears in Acts 13:45 and 17:5-19.[xxxvii]

Initially, as noted at the beginning, Josephus, the historian, accused those responsible for the revolt, inter alia, of introducing “innovations in the ancestral customs.” Furthermore, Josephus says that he will set forth the “precise details of what is written in the Scriptures, neither adding nor omitting anything.” Since ancestral customs are recorded in sacred scriptures, one has to wonder why Josephus makes changes on practically every page.

This lengthy blog has shown that followers of Jesus and the followers of Moses were competing for the same recruits in the critical time period that the literature was being created. Mason and others have argued using other criteria that Luke-Acts was published after Antiquities. This blog has shown how Josephus has rewritten the Bible altering the various texts relied upon by the followers of Jesus. The alteration of the covenant of circumcision undermines only the claim of Luke that Jesus is the circumcised messiah out of the house of David. The alteration of the land theology undermines only the covenant-rooted ingathering of the exiles proclaimed by Luke. As noted Josephus has altered texts relating to personalities that only appear in Luke-Acts. The alteration of the story of Lot is truly senseless. Only Luke among the gospel writers mentioned Lot and has Enochic references. Finally Josephus is responding to Luke-Acts because only the Lucan Paul successfully targeted Jews of the Diaspora promoting a covenant-rooted ingathering of exiles.

Therefore, we can conclude that Josephus, who “speaks as a committed Jew,” rewrote sacred history in support of the cause of Jewish proselytism.

[i] Steve Mason, Josephus and the New Testament, (Peabody, 1992), 60-61.
[ii] Ant. 1.103.
[iii] Andre Paul, “Flavius Josephus’ Ant. Of the Jews: An Anti-Christian Manifesto,” NTS 31 (1985): 473-480.
[iv] Ant. 1.192.
[v] Genesis 17:10-11.
[vi] Ant. 1.192.
[vii] Betsy H. Amaru, “Land Theology in Josephus’ Jew. Ant,” JQR 71 (1980-81): 213-214.
[viii] Amaru, 205.
[ix] Goldstein, 1 Maccabees, A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, (Garden City, 1976), 560.
[x] Ant 10.11.7
[xi] Antiquities 10.11.7.
[xii] Amaru at 227. The footnote states “In Ant. VII, 93 he deletes God’s unconditional promises to David, ‘And thy house and thy kingdom shall be made sure for ever before thee; thy throne shall be established forever (II Sam. 7:16).’”
[xiii] Ant. 1.85.
[xiv] Ant. 4. 326.
[xv] Ant. 9.28. “And indeed, as to Elijah, and as to Enoch, who was before the deluge, it is written in the sacred books that they disappeared, but so that nobody knew that they died.”
[xvi] Bamberger, Bernard J., Proselytism in the Talmudic period, (Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Press, 1939), 17.
[xvii] Amaru at 227.
[xviii] Denova, Rebecca I., The Things Accomplished Among Us: Prophetic Tradition in the Structural Pattern of Luke-Acts, (Sheffield, 1997), 198.
[xix] Denova, 199.
[xx] Denova, 199.
[xxi] Denova, 199.
[xxii] Denova, 199.
[xxiii] Denova, 230-231.
[xxiv] Louis H. Feldman, “Jewish Proselytism”, in Eusebius, Christianity, and Judaism edited by Harold W. Attridge and Gohei Hata, (Detroit, 1992), 385.
[xxv]. Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity, (Princeton 1996), 49-71.
[xxvi]. Stark, 55.
[xxvii]. Stark, 18, 56.
[xxviii]. Stark, 59.
[xxix]. Stark, 49.
[xxx]. Stark, 139.
[xxxi]. Paul R. Trebilco, Jewish Communities in Asia Minor, (Cambridge, England, 1991).
[xxxii]. Anderson, “Theophilus: A Proposal,” EQ 69:3 (1997), 195-215.
[xxxiii]. Fletcher-Louis, 19; footnote 83 on page 19 mentions Jervell, Drury, Salmon, Sterling, Evans, Ellis; and 'mixed community' with respect to Esler and Tyson.
[xxxiv]. Hans Conzelmann, Gentiles - Jews - Christians: Polemics and Apologetics in the Greco-Roman Era, translated by M. Eugene Boring, (Minneapolis 1992), 240-241.
[xxxv]. Conzelmann, 237.
[xxxvi]. Louis H. Feldman, “Jewish Proselytism”, in Eusebius, Christianity, and Judaism edited by Harold W. Attridge and Gohei Hata, (Detroit, 1992), 396.
[xxxvii]. This is understandable in light of Paul's success in Antioch, 13:43; Iconium, 14:1; Thessalonica, 17:4; Beroea, 17:11-12; Corinth, 18:4; Ephesus, 19:8-10; and Rome, 28:24.

copyrighted 2005

Easter Monday

I suppose, after not blogging for a whole week, I should share with you my reflections. I like the idea of writing everyday but not the idea that this is a requirement that I must fulfill. Other than that, it was relaxing. The news was not.

I will be posting Rewriting Sacred History and I do want to add a few comments. For more than three months, more like three years, I have wondered if there was any demonstrable way of showing dependency of Josephus on Luke or vice versa. I decided recently that this effort was a waste of time. Then Lee Dahn, New Testament Studies, asked me why did Josephus rewrite the story of Lot!?

Today, the article came to fruition.

Thank you Lee.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Find Articles in Luke-Acts

Stephen Carlson at Hypotyposeis

has discovered a wealth of material available on the Internet in the form of articles and book reviews in a number of academic journals. Since I plan to take Holy Week off, I thought the least I could do is share with you articles of interest I found in Catholic Biblical Quarterly:

The Tamid service in Luke-Acts: The cultic background behind Luke's theology of worship (Luke 1:5-25; 18:9-14; 24:50-53, Acts 3:1; 10:3, 30)

The Transfiguration of Jesus: Narrative Meaning and Function of Mark 9:2-8, Mat 17:1-8, and Luke 9:28-36Catholic Biblical Quarterly, The, Oct 2001 by Spencer, F Scott

A note on Luke 12:46 and the parallel in Matthew 24:51 Catholic Biblical Quarterly, The,
Apr 2001 by Friedrichsen, Timothy A

The Death of Jesus: The Diabolical Force and the Ministering Angel: Luke 23, 44-49
Catholic Biblical Quarterly, The, Apr 2000 by Witherup, Ronald D

The Biblical Jubilee, After Fifty Years Catholic Biblical Quarterly, The, Oct 2001
by Balentine, Samuel E

The Paradox of Salvation: Luke's Theology of the Cross
Catholic Biblical Quarterly, The, Apr 1998 by Karris, Robert J

"Do this as my memorial" (Luke 22:19): Lucan soteriology of atonement
Catholic Biblical Quarterly, The, Jan 1999 by Carpinelli, Francis Giordano

Power from on High: The Spirit in Israel's Restoration and Witness in Luke-Acts
Catholic Biblical Quarterly, The, Jan 1998 by Montague, George T

Book reviews -- Jesus' Exposition of the Old Testament in Luke's Gospel by Charles A. Kimball Catholic Biblical Quarterly, The, Oct 1995 by Miller, Robert J

The Sign of Jonah Reconsidered: A Study of Its Meaning in the Gospel Traditions Catholic Biblical Quarterly, The, Apr 1997 by Robert A Derrenbacker Jr

The Crucial Bridge: The Elijah-Elisha Narrative as an Interpretive Synthesis of Genesis-Kings and a Liteary Model for the Gospels Catholic Biblical Quarterly, The, Apr 2001 by Quitslund, Sonya

Geography in Early Judaism and ChristianityCatholic Biblical Quarterly, The, Jan 2004 by Adler, William

The Lucan censuses, revisitedCatholic Biblical Quarterly, The, Apr 1999 by
Pearson, Brook W R

Thank you Stephen.

Saturday, March 19, 2005


Luke begains by telling us: In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abi'jah; and he had a wife of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.

In this calendrical document, discovered at Qumran, we now have available on the internet archeological confirmation of the existence of the courses of priests with the schedule of service.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Circumcision rewritten

Josephus also rewrote the traditional view of circumcision. In Judaism the rite of circumcision is the sign of covenant between God and Abraham.[i] In Book One, God charged Abram “that they should be circumcised in the flesh of their foreskin.” However according to Josephus the purpose is “to keep his posterity unmixed with others.”[ii]

Josephus lived the later portion of his life in Rome, in the Diaspora. In Rome, Josephus was permitted to obtain a divorce from his Jewish wife and to marry a Roman. Knowing that Josephus had been permitted to obtain a divorce and marry a non-Jew, which of course violated the priestly marriage rules in Leviticus 21, I was puzzled when I read in Antiquities that the purpose of circumcision is “to keep his posterity unmixed with others.”

As I see it, Josephus sought to reduce the role of God throughout his narrative. I am undecided whether Josephus also sought to reduce the centrality of the land of Israel. I plan to read Betsy H. Amaru, “Land Theology in Josephus” Jewish Antiquities.[iii]

On March 5, 2005 in Rewriting Joshua 22, I noted that for Josephus, Abrahamic descent carries with it the responsibility to fulfill Mosaic religious duties,[iv] and that this responsibility is not negated by one’s place of residence.[v] Yet as noted above, Josephus apparently does not believe the Mosaic religious duties apply to him.

I guess the debate I postulated was occurring in the Jewish community was occurring between Josephus the Jewish priest who is required to marry a daughter of Aaron and Josephus, the historian residing in Rome.

[i] Genesis 17:10-11.
[ii] Ant. 1.192.
[iii] JQR 71 (1980-1981), 201-229.
[iv] Ant. 5.97.
[v] See also Ant. 5.109.

copyrighted 2005

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Happy Saint Patrick's Day

I did want to mention that I have been experiencing minor problems with Blogger. I have been reading on the net the problems that others have experienced but prior today, I have not really noticed them. Today when I posted the Abomination of Desolation, I was unable at first to include the endnotes. Perhaps, it was the lack of coffee. Later, fortified with my morning coffee, I was able to finally post with endnotes.

We will return to our regular programming.

Enjoy the green beer.

The Abomination of Desolation

Does the “abomination of desolation” spoken of Daniel the prophet and mentioned by the synoptic gospel writers mean the same as the pollution of the Temple mentioned by Josephus? If so, then perhaps we have an additional tool for our understanding the phrase that is admittedly obscure. According to Goldstein, Josephus believed in the veracity of Daniel 7-12.[i] In fact, Josephus considered Daniel to be one of the greatest of the prophets.[ii]

In chapter 21, the Lucan Jesus gives a lengthy discourse which includes the prediction of the destruction of the Temple with these words: “the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another”. In verse twenty, Jesus tells his disciples: “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near.” Matthew has inserted “So when you see the desolating sacrilege spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), to replace “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near.” Mark has inserted “But when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains;” as his replacement of the same Lucan phrase. Thus the gospel writers interpreted the abomination to be fulfilled when Jerusalem surrounded. Scholars agree that the three synoptic gospel writers are all in some way making an allusion to three separate passages in Daniel 9-12 containing the identical phrase: “the abomination that causes desolation.”[iii]

What event occurring just prior to 41 CE, might refer to or act as a trigger to cause Luke to write to Theophilus and include the Danielic allusion to “its desolation has come near”?

The Jewish polemics against the earliest Christians included the allegation that Jesus threatened to destroy the Temple. Stephen's last sermon may have been a commentary on this allegation of the Jewish community.[iv] Nationalistic sentiments were on the rise in Jerusalem.[v] This time period was also particularly tense due to the belief that the Emperor Caligula (37-41 C.E.) who had proclaimed himself “the lord of the sea,” would soon be sending his army to enforce his demand that Judaism be abolished and that his statue be installed worship on the Temple Mount. In order to calm the rising tensions, the Emperor Claudius who succeeded Caligula, appointed Herod Agrippa king of Galilee, Peraea and Judea. His actions included executing and imprisoning leaders of the Christian community in Jerusalem.[vi] The tumult caused by the preaching of Stephen and his subsequent death[vii] was the first open hostility of the Jewish authorities to the followers of Jesus. In any event after Stephen's death, there was a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem.[viii] This persecution prompted Luke to appeal to Theophilus and to include the allusion to Daniel.

Jesus also predicted the destruction of the city of Jerusalem. Most scholars have dated Luke post 70 CE because they did not want to address the issue of predictive prophecy.

'This generation'[ix] refers to those who heard and saw Jesus as witnesses and who are now (the first generation) listening and/or reading Luke. All of the explicit references to the destruction of the city are to be found in the special material of the Gospel of Luke. Those most interested in the fate of Jerusalem were not Gentiles but were Jewish residents of the city. The Lucan Jesus tells the people the signs so that they will know when to leave the city. If Luke wrote to the Gentiles post 70 CE, the most impressive statement he could make would be: “Jesus predicted the destruction of the Temple and of Jerusalem and this prophecy was fulfilled.” If Luke were writing after 70 CE, he would have noted the separate fates of the city and Temple. Although Luke on numerous occasions emphasized the fulfillment of prophecy, nowhere in Luke or Acts does he indicate that the prophecy regarding the fate of the city and Temple has been fulfilled.[x]

The Temple is still standing when Luke addressed Theophilus. The Temple prophecy of Mark 13:2; Matt 24:2 and Luke 21:6 resembles and echoes the prophecies of Micah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel that God's imminent judgment on Israel would involve the overthrow of the Temple.[xi]

Full-scale war with Rome began in 66 CE, with the final actual siege against the city lasting from April to September 70 CE. Jerusalem at that time was teeming with refugees who flooded in from the ravaged countryside. In addition, many pilgrims traveled to Jerusalem to observe Passover. Anarchy reigned as warring factions of zealots killed thousands of their own citizens in a bloody civil war inside the gates, even while the Roman legions camped outside the gates of the city. Corpses were piled up throughout the city. Rival factions vying for control of the city torched granaries and storehouses. Water reservoirs were polluted. Thus, the population suffered famine and disease. Many Jews foraged for food outside the city walls at night. Romans captured thousands, reportedly crucifying 500 a day. About 6,000 Jews had followed a false prophet and sought refuge in an area of the temple, where they were burned alive. Josephus writes of the city streets flowing with blood, which even quenched some of the fires.
These events described by Josephus are certainly encompassed by Luke’s description of what will happened to those who do not depart from the city at their first opportunity after Jerusalem has been surrounded by armies. Luke stated: “For great distress shall be upon the earth and wrath upon this people; they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led captive among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”

The views of Josephus are of particular interest. During the assault on Jerusalem, he served as a Roman spokesman urging the people of the city to surrender. In his Wars of the Jews, which furnishes a full account of the struggle from his perspective on the Roman side, Josephus sees the miseries of the city as the fulfillment of an ancient oracle.

“For they [the prophets] foretold that this city [Jerusalem] should be then taken when somebody shall begin the slaughter of his own countrymen.”[xii]

Evidently, Josephus is thinking of Daniel's prediction because earlier he remembers that in consequence of violence springing up, the city would be taken and the sanctuary burned.

“For there was a certain ancient oracle of those men [the prophets], that the city should then be taken and the sanctuary burnt, by right of war, when a sedition should invade the Jews, and their own hand should pollute the Temple of God.”[xiii]

In his later work, Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus named Daniel as the source of this oracle.[xiv]

[i] Goldstein, 1 Maccabees, A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, (Garden City, 1976), 560.
[ii] Ant 10.11.7
[iii] Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:11.
[iv] The death of Stephen is dated in 36 A.D.; James in 42 A.D. by B. Riecke, 'Judaeo-Christianity and the Jewish Establishment', Bammel and Moule, editors, Jesus and the Politics of His Day, (Cambridge 1984), 147. I date the death of Stephen to the short time period during which Jonathan served as High Priest in 37 CE.
[v] Gaston, No Stone on Another: Studies in the Significance of the Fall of Jerusalem, (Leiden 1970), 156.
[vi] Acts 12:1-9.
[vii] Acts 6:8 to 8:3.
[viii] Acts 8:1.
[ix] Lk. 21:32: 'Truly, I say to you that this generation will not pass away until all has taken place.'
[x] Nowhere in the NT does it state this prophecy has been fulfilled.
[xi] Mi. 3:12 cited at Jer. 26:18; Jer. 7:14-15 and Ezk. 24:21.
[xii] Wars 6.2.1.
[xiii] Ibid., 4.6.3.
[xiv] Antiquities 10.11.7.

copyrighted 2005

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Part II: Paul is a good Jew

I have been trying to understand why someone might write the Gospel of Luke early, say 41 CE, and then twenty years later write Acts of the Apostles as a continuation. I have suggested that Luke, in his second book, was trying to persuade Theophilus, the High Priest, that Paul is a good Jew.

Salvation to the Gentiles is announced in Luke 2:32 and alluded to in 3:5. Its proclamation is only appropriate after and as a consequence of Jesus’ mission to Israel. The priority of the proclamation to the Jews based upon Isa. 49:6 is unquestionable. Therefore the salvation for Gentiles does not recurs until the end of the Gospel in Luke 24:47.

Luke addressed his book to a Jewish audience that was resisting the on-going mission to the Jews and to the Jewish followers of Jesus who were resisting the mission to the Gentiles. Luke, in his second book, is concerned to pass on the message that the Gentile mission as part of Jesus’ mission was in fact transmitted to his disciples. Consequently Luke wrote Acts as a sequel to the Gospel after witnessing nearly twenty years of resistance to the mission. The genesis of the Gentile mission, as an addition to the mission to Israel and as the other part of Jesus’ mission, is told in the second part of Luke’s work. It is the resistance of the Jews and of the Jewish followers of Jesus that is the driving organizing force to the mission, that is to say, the resistance becomes the stimulus.

Theophilus is told how this resistance stimulated Paul to pursue his mission. More importantly, Theophilus is told that the prophets foretold what Paul is doing. Isaiah’s songs of the Servant proclaim both the restoration of the twelve tribes of Jacob and the salvation of the Gentiles. Thus Theophilus is told Paul is a good Jew.

Copyrighted 2005

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Let the Reader Understand

Mark 13:14
"But when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains;

I was going to blog on “the abomination of desolation” when the thought occurred to me that the words “read” and “reader” must occur numerous times in the Bible. The word “read” appears 253 times in the Revised Standard Version. The phrase “have you not read” appears seven times in the synoptic gospels. One example is: And Jesus answered, "Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him?” This example appears in both Matthew and Luke. There was a crowd of people about Jesus when he responded to the Pharisees. Jesus was asking the Pharisees and also the crowd, have you not read?

Why then is there a question about literacy?

Another question:

The expression “Let the reader understand” occurs only in Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14 but not in the Lucan parallel at Luke 21:20-24.

Matthew and Mark certainly understood that many readers would read their book.

Why does the phrase “Let the reader understand” not appear in Luke? Would you include “Let the reader understand” in a document initially addressed to one person, most excellent Theophilus?

copyrighted 2005

Monday, March 14, 2005

Kingdom Adventure

I thought I would share with you the random thoughts of Jason Retherford who blogged on March 14, 2005
Acts as the first and most important interpretation of Luke's Gospel...

I do so because I am about to post on Wednesday another view of why Luke wrote the Acts of the Apostles.

Lucan Omission of “Jesus walking on the sea” epiphany

The significance of the Lucan Omission of “Jesus walking on the sea” epiphany has not been properly understood. The scholarship to date with noted exceptions has treated the omission as some kind of authorial or scribal inadvertence. This article presents the rationale for understanding the Lucan Omission as an intentional omission based upon Luke’s perceived theology. Consequently it is necessary to investigate and understand what purpose the sea walking epiphany/rescue plays in the gospels.

The miracle of Jesus walking on the sea is an epiphany and thus is fundamentally different from the other types of gospel miracles performed by the Lucan Jesus such as healing, exorcisms, feeding stories etc. The essential characteristic of an epiphany is that it reveals some aspect of God’s salvific dealings with his people.

The sea rescue epiphany represents a unique revelation of Jesus’ person. The sea walking power demonstrates that Jesus has the total absolute divine power necessary for the complete fulfillment of God’s salvific will toward his people. The motif of Jesus walking on the sea has two mutually related aspects: Jesus divinely dominates the sea by walking it (Job 9:8); Jesus crosses the sea by walking on it. In the epiphanic action of Jesus walking on the sea, an action of Yahweh, rarely seen by men is made visible to the disciples. In the 77th Psalm, although Yahweh makes a way in the sea "yet his footprints were unseen" Ps. 77:19. And in the context Yahweh walking on the sea in Job 9:8, it is stated in 9:11 "he passes by me, and I see him not; he moves on, but I do not perceive him."

Two further examples of divine dominance over the sea are found in Isaiah. Isa. 51:10 states: "Was it not thou that didst dry up the sea, the waters of the great deep; that didst make the depths of the sea a way for the redeemed to pass over?” Isa. 43:16 states: “Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters.” These verses also have the Exodus motifs of divine deliverance from the distress of an uncrossable sea.

Since the "Isaianic New Exodus" theme is found in the writings of Luke, it is noteworthy that Luke does not include the sea walking epiphany in his gospel. The divine power Jesus manifested in walking on the sea is re-echoed in his words in Matt. 28:18: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." However the Lucan Jesus makes no such claim.

It is remarkable that the Lucan Jesus does not walk on water. However as previously noted Luke is not adverse to epiphanies since Luke includes several angelophanies and one resurrectional christophany. Thus it cannot be argued that Luke objects to the inclusion of an epiphanic intervention in his gospel.

While Luke does not object to the inclusion of epiphanic intervention, he or his intended audience objects to equating Jesus with Yahweh.

copyrighted 2005

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Walking on the Sea

According to Roger Aus, Matthew, Mark and John have based the walking on water story on Exodus 14-15. Roger Aus says that they also based the story on an incident involving Gaius Caligula' building a bridge over the bay between Baiae and Puteoli just west of modern Naples. Aus assert that Matthew, Mark and John created an equivalent incident for Jesus.[i] Josephus and Seneca locate the account sometime in 40 CE. Josephus says that Gaius considered himself “lord of the sea”.

This is what Josephus tells us about Gaius Caligula who reigned as emperor from 37-41 CE:

“And other pranks he did like a madman; as when he laid a bridge from the city Dicearchia, which belongs to Campania, to Misenum, another city upon the sea-side, from one promontory to another, of the length of thirty furlongs, as measured over the sea. And this was done because he esteemed it to be a most tedious thing to row over it in a small ship, and thought withal that it became him to make that bridge, since he was lord of the sea, and might oblige it to give marks of obedience as well as the earth; so he enclosed the whole bay within his bridge, and drove his chariot over it; and thought that, as he was a god, it was fit for him to travel over such roads as this was.”[ii]

There is another aspect to the story that has been noted by Steven Notley. Luke had no knowledge of the Christian toponym "Sea of Galilee".[iii] Luke (e.g. 5:1-2) instead uses the appropriate term limne and "Lake of Gennesaret" which Josephus and I Macc uses.[iv]

The lake is traversed by the Jordan, and is situated in a deep depression, its surface being 682 feet below sea-level. It is 20 kilometers long and about 9 kilometers wide. Josephus says 140 stades long, 40 wide which is very close.

If Aus and Notley are correct, Luke not using the material is evidence that he has a higher standard for his geography and history and/or that Luke predates Matthew, Mark and John.

[i] Aus, Roger, Caught in the act, walking on the sea, and the release of Barabbas revisited, (Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1998).
[ii] Ant. 19.1.1.
[iii] For Matthew, see 4:18; 15:29; Mark 1:16; 7:31 and John 6:1.
[iv] War, III. x. 8; Antiq. xviii.2, 1; see also 1 Macc 11:67.

copyrighted 2005

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Oral traditions and the Resistance to Writing

Today across America high school students are taking their SAT test. Favorable results are considered an important criterion for admission to college. And they are using No. 2 pencils to complete their exams.

There is a lot of talk about the SAT writing sample requirement. And to think there was a period of time when there was active resistance to the introduction of writing. Of course, the only reason we know about the resistance is because the dispute was recorded. Plato[i] noted that the discovery of writing threatened a time-honored reliance on memory.

Crenshaw presented the biblical and epigraphic evidence for the existence of schools in ancient Israel concluding his chapter on this subject with these words: “the Gospels assume that the son of a carpenter was literate, and this understanding of things accords with the rabbinic tradition about the beginnings of public education.”[ii] Ben Sira’s school “is a private place of learning consonant with the theory of limited education by an elder statesman.”

The Book of Proverbs may have initially functioned as a textbook. Scholars have recognized that the intentional arrangement of proverbial sayings into ten speeches and in small units with various linking devices may have served as an aid to memory. Poets who wrote Lamentations and the acrostic Psalms searched for a workable mnemonic device as an aid to memory.

I do not recall if Crenshaw included any percentage on the literary level of society but his comments across the board demonstrate that schools for education existed in ancient Israel and that students were taught the skills necessary for the survival of the oral traditions. Since I been reading Josephus, I can add that he asserted in Against Apion that every Jewish man, woman, and child knew the law completely but this knowledge could be acquired either hearing the Torah recited in the synagogues or from studying a written text. However, I suppose those who deny any modicum of literacy would also deny the existence of synagogues in this time period. We are then left with realization that exaggeration, as rhetorical tool, is successful only it there is a grain of truth to the statement. Josephus also claimed that many people purchased his books. Some people must have been reading.

One final comment. The Hebrew word for "minister of the word" is "huzzan" which is the name of the synagogue official in charge of the scroll.[iii] Bailey claims that Luke's use of this word in this context means that these persons in charge of passing the controlled oral traditions are eyewitnesses who have the tremendous responsibility to ensure that the word is accurately transmitted.[iv] This appears to be an important part of Luke's message. These persons were pre-selected by Jesus and trained by Jesus for this special role and include not only the twelve disciples but also the 120.

[i] Phaedrus 274C-275B.
[ii] Crenshaw, Education in Ancient Israel, (1998), 113.
[iii] Bailey, “Informal Controlled Oral Tradition and the Synoptic Gospels," Asia Journal of Theology, 5(1): 34-54.
[iv] Bailey.

copyrighted 2005

Literacy in the Time of Jesus

Could His Words Have Been Recorded in His Lifetime?
By Alan Millard

John McBryde posted on Xtalk this helpful article published in the
July/August 2003 issue of BAR.

See also See also Reading and Writing In the Time of Jesus.

James Crenshaw, Education in Ancient Israel (1998) is
recommended for further reading.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Rewriting Elijah 2

Last Sunday, I blogged on this subject with the feeling that I should have written more. So, I would like to add some additional random thoughts. Elijah is the fourth most mentioned OT character in the New Testament, after Moses, Abraham and David. The majority of these references occur in the Gospels.

In Luke 4:25-27 Jesus uses the account of Elijah being sent to the widow in Zarephath to illustrate his argument that the Lord had always acted in ways that his people did not expect and have found offensive. In this case, his audience expected the Messiah to vanquish the Gentile oppressors, and not include them in the blessings they thought should be reserved for Israel alone.

Elijah and his disciple Elisha are not ordinary prophets. Jack Poirier writing in Jerusalem Perspective
[i] notes they are the only two prophets mentioned in the Old Testament as having been anointed and they are the only two who fit the description of the Isaiah 61 passage Jesus read in the synagogue in Nazareth.

On February 20, 2005, I blogged on the High Priest as a Divine Mediator. Crispin Fletcher-Louis sees the Lucan Jesus as the eschatological high priest. Fletcher-Louis did not discuss Elijah, the anointed priest. It seems to me that Poirier’s suggestion strengthens Fletcher-Louis’ argument and I suppose strengthens my argument that Luke’s presentation is the first class use of irony as a tool of rhetoric because Jesus by the power of God is raised from the dead and does appear at the right hand of the power of God.

To the extent, Matthew and Mark present Jesus as the eschatological high priest, I see this as a later theological development. I developed this position in “The Cross and Atonement from Luke to Hebrews.”[ii] Reducing my argument to a brief paragraph, I would merely note that the anointment at Bethany[iii] is an example where Mark has added High Priestly imagery to the passion narrative. According to Leviticus 8, Moses poured some of the anointing oil onto Aaron's head to consecrate him. In Mark, an unknown woman poured anointing oil onto Jesus' head. Aus say this event took place to represent Jesus as the High Priest.[iv] Thus it is significant that the head of Jesus is not anointed in Luke. Luke tells the story of the woman who poured oil on the feet of Jesus during his Galilean ministry.[v] The High Priestly imagery is missing from this account. Luke avoids presenting Jesus as a prophet greater than Moses. He also avoids any hints that Jesus is anointed the High Priest or that Jesus has replaced the High Priest.

I still have that same feeling about writing more but both Poirier and Fletcher-Louis have given me food for thought. I will be reading the sources cited by them and I will be returning to Rewriting Elijah.

[i] Jesus and Elijah in Luke 4:16-30; Jerusalem Perspective,

[ii] Evangelical Quarterly, 71:2, (1999), 127-149. I. Howard Marshall, Editor.
[iii] Mk. 14:3-9; cf. Mt. 26:6-13; Jn. 12:1-8.
[iv] Roger David Aus, The Wicked Tenants and Gethsemane (Atlanta 1996), 112.
[v] Lk. 7:36-50.

copyrighted 2005

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Why I blog?

One of these days I will answer this question. However, someone did take a stab.

Blogoshere and bloggers Fifth Estate

We are members of the Fifth Estate! And I do occasionally
Drink Dr. Pepper.

The Grace Pages

A review of Schwinkelmeier's Commentary on the Gospel of Luke (Hoffer & Schlopp, 1959)

additional comment to initial posting:
I do not recognize this commentary and because I have not had my coffee this morning I did not initially realize this book review is a parody, perhaps of a recent review of Green's Commentary on the Gospel of Luke.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Idle Tale

When the women, including Johanna, granddaughter of Theophilus, returned from the tomb they told the apostles about the two men at the tomb in dazzling apparel “but these words seemed to them to be an idle tale, and they did not believe them.”[i] The apostles did not believe Johanna and the other women!

lhroV is a Lucan hapax. Idle tale is gossip and Luke in setting forth an accurate account for Theophilus may be responding to gossip being spread giving a sense of urgency and mission to this first letter Luke has composed. Luke is also implicitly suggesting that the persons who spread idle tales, not Johanna, about Jesus are in fact bearing false witness and spreading hearsay. The prohibition against idle tale is based upon Exodus 23:1. It states in part: “You shall not utter a false report.” Philo provides considerable detail concerning the single witness, the false witness, hearsay evidence and the accuser in a court of law. “The first instruction that the law gives to the judge is that he should not accept idle hearing . . . .”[ii] This sentence appears in the discussion on Thou shalt not bear false witness. If Philo is typical of Jewish thinking on false witness, it is easier to understand the Lucan imperative that the message to Theophilus be such that he “may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed.”[iii]

[i] Lk. 24:11.
[ii] Philo, Spec. Leg. IV.59-61.
[iii] Lk. 1:4.

copyrighted 2005

Monday, March 07, 2005

Example Stories

Yesterday’s blog suggested that the story of the widow who provided sanctuary to Elijah was intended by Luke as an example to the people of Israel. In writing the blog, I undoubtedly was influenced by a book I have not read but is on my reading list.[i] Example Stories give the perspectives on four parables unique to Luke but I suspect the genre should include even the two-verse example story of the widow. Tucker has limited his study to the treatment of these four parables: The Good Samaritan, The Prodigal Son, The Rich Fool, The Rich Man and Lazarus and The Pharisee and the Toll Collector. I have said before that Luke employs the step-progression method wherein something he says serves to introduce the next topic. Tucker’s “study contains the story of the transformation of four parables in the Gospel of Luke into ‘example stories. . . .’”[ii]

[i] Tucker, Jeffrey T., Example Stories: perspectives on four parables in the Gospel of Luke, (Sheffield, JSNT, 1998).
[ii] Tucker, 397.

copyrighted 2005

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Rewriting Elijah

Jesus in his first sermon at Nazareth mentioned Elijah and Elisha.[i] Many scholars have cited these three verses in support of the proposition that Luke wrote about the rejection of the Jews.[ii]

Elijah was a prophet in Israel in the first half of the 9th century BCE during the reign of King Ahab, the wicked king who ruled over Israel. Elijah came from the land east of the Jordan to wage war in the name of the God of his fathers against the worship of Baal. He began his ministry with the announcement of the beginning of the drought with these words: “there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.”[iii]

After delivering the message to Ahab as directed by God, Elijah left town and after a period of time he lodged with a widow in her place beyond the Jordan. The widow knew of the living God.[iv] Elijah protected the members of the household from the famine and even brought the widow’s son back to life.[v]

God gave victory to Elijah over 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Ashtaroth on Mount Carmel. Elijah requested that God restore the covenant and after the humiliating victory the people called out, “YHWH is God.”

Elijah is presented, in 1st and 2nd Kings, as a prophet who mediates in the restoration of the covenant between God and Israel. The widow is an example of the knowledge of the living God outside Israel and her assistance as God’s agent in providing a sanctuary to Elijah made it possible for the prophet to restore the covenant. Elijah travels to a sanctuary provided by the widow as a means of bringing Israel back to the knowledge of the Lord possessed by the widow. This two-verse allusion to the widow who assisted Elijah is thus intended for the widow to be an example to the people of Israel.

In Sirach 48 we read these words:

1: Then the prophet Elijah arose like a fire, and his word burned like a torch. 2: He brought a famine upon them, and by his zeal he made them few in number. 3: By the word of the Lord he shut up the heavens, and also three times brought down fire. 4: How glorious you were, O Elijah, in your wondrous deeds! And who has the right to boast which you have? 5: You who raised a corpse from death and from Hades, by the word of the Most High; 6: who brought kings down to destruction, and famous men from their beds; 7: who heard rebuke at Sinai and judgments of vengeance at Horeb; 8: who anointed kings to inflict retribution, and prophets to succeed you. 9: You who were taken up by a whirlwind of fire, in a chariot with horses of fire; 10: you who are ready at the appointed time, it is written, to calm the wrath of God before it breaks out in fury, to turn the heart of the father to the son, and to restore the tribes of Jacob. 11: Blessed are those who saw you, and those who have been adorned in love; for we also shall surely live.
In Sirach 48, just as in 1-2 Kings, Malachi 3:23, 2 Chr 21:12-15 and 1 Macc. 2:58, Elijah is presented as a zealot for the maintenance and restoration of God’s covenant with Israel. This is the image that Luke intends to convey with his reference to Elijah in Luke 4:25-26. It is the task of The Prophet like Moses to convert the people of Israel. In agreement with Jacob Jervell, the salvation of the Gentiles is bound up with the salvation of Israel.[vi] The Lucan Jesus did not come to entertain the people of Nazareth nor to announce the rejection of the Jews.

[i] Luke 4:25-27.
[ii] One of the unstated premises of those who support this position is that the mission to the Jews was unsuccessful. This will be addressed in another blog.
[iii] 1 Kings 17:1.
[iv] 1 Kings 17:12.
[v] 1 Kings 17:9-24.
[vi] Luke and the people of God; a new look at Luke-Acts, (Minneapolis, 1972).

copyrighted 2005

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Rewriting Joshua 22

Joshua 22 tells the story of the construction of an altar to the Lord beyond the river Jordan by two of the tribes of Israel. The people of Israel on the west side of the Jordan sought to punish those on the east side for a possible transgression of the Mosaic code. In Joshua 22, the potential misunderstanding is clarified when it is explained that the altar of the Lord was built “to be a witness between us and you, and between the generations after us, that we do perform the service of the LORD in his presence with our burnt offerings and sacrifices and peace offerings; lest your children say to our children in time to come, ‘You have no portion in the LORD.’”[i]

Josephus rewrites Joshua 22. In the preamble, Josephus has Joshua remind the tribes departing for their territories beyond the Jordan that Abrahamic descent carries with it the responsibility to fulfill Mosaic religious duties,[ii] and that this responsibility is not negated by one’s place of residence.[iii] According to Josephus, observance of the Law will ensure God’s alliance, while turning away “to imitate other nations” will result in God turning away from them.[iv] When the people of Israel learn of the altar being built beyond the Jordan by their kinfolk, they quickly mobilized to punish them, “For they held they should take no account of their kinship . . . but of the will of God and the fashion in which He delights to be honored.”[v] For Josephus, ethnic descent from Abraham imposes the requirement of obedience to the Mosaic Law. At the end of story as told by Josephus, the trans-Jordanian tribes state they had been guilty of “new-fangled ways that are perversions of our customary practices” and that they deserved to be extirpated.[vi]

To whom is the rewriting of Joshua 22 directed? Apparently at the end of the first century when Josephus published Antiquities, there are Jews asserting that because they are living outside of the land of Israel they do not have to have to strictly obey the Mosaic Law in order to maintain their Jewish identity. Josephus believes that Abrahamic descent requires strict obedience of the Mosaic Law by all Jews regardless where they might reside.

On February 13, 2005 in my blog on circumcision I stated: Covenant identity, election and associated laws and ordinances do not apply outside Israel.[vii] I further stated:
The fact that the debates occurred inside and outside Israel is perhaps indicative that the boundary markers had not been firmly set. In rewriting Joshua 22, Josephus joined the debate.[viii] Was Josephus directing his comments to the Jews who associated with the followers of Jesus as depicted in Acts of the Apostles?

[i] Joshua 22:27.
[ii] Ant. 5.97.
[iii] See also Ant. 5.109.
[iv] Ant. 5.98.
[v] Ant. 5.102.
[vi] Ant. 5.113.
[vii] Christiansen, The covenant in Judaism and Paul: a study of ritual boundaries as identity markers, (Leiden; New York, 1995), 92.
[viii] Josephus and Paul agree in one respect as evidenced by Romans 3:1-2, which states: “Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews are entrusted with the oracles of God.”

copyrighted 2005

Friday, March 04, 2005

Just War

Just war theory, as a method of evaluating military actions, has been recognized historically by thinkers as varied as Cicero, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Grotius, Martin Luther and Daniel Webster. This theory has been used to determine if the decision to go to war and the means used to prosecute that war are just. This blog, of the view of Josephus on just war, will continue the examination of the treatment of sources by Josephus in an effort to understand how and why he changed his sources and what this might mean to our understanding of the relationship between Josephus and Luke.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) is generally acknowledged as the first to offer a sustained treatment of war in The City of God. I would like to suggest that perhaps Josephus did so several centuries before Augustine. Josephus changed, inter alia, a speech made by Judah, the first military commander of the Maccabees. The changes reflect the attitude of Josephus towards wars and define under what circumstances the people of Israel should go to war and requirements necessary for victory.

1 Macc. 3.16-22
16: When he approached the ascent of Beth-horon, Judas went out to meet him with a small company. 17: But when they saw the army coming to meet them, they said to Judas, "How can we, few as we are, fight against so great and strong a multitude? And we are faint, for we have eaten nothing today." 18: Judas replied, "It is easy for many to be hemmed in by few, for in the sight of Heaven there is no difference between saving by many or by few. 19: It is not on the size of the army that victory in battle depends, but strength comes from Heaven. 20: They come against us in great pride and lawlessness to destroy us and our wives and our children, and to despoil us; 21: but we fight for our lives and our laws. 22: He himself will crush them before us; as for you, do not be afraid of them."

Ant. 12.289-91
“Having advanced as far as the village of Bet-Horon in Judaea, he encamped there. But Judah, meeting him there and intending to engage him, saw that his soldiers were shrinking from the battle because of their small number and lack of food - for they had fasted - and so he began to encourage them, saying that victory and mastery over the enemy lay not in numbers, but in being pious toward the Deity. And for this they had the clearest example in their forefathers, who because of their righteousness and their struggles on behalf of their own laws and children had many times defeated many tens of thousands; for, he said, in doing no wrong there is a mighty force.”

Gafni[i] explained the significance of the changes made by Josephus to 1 Maccabees:

“Josephus has introduced a totally different nuance into Judah’s speech. Whereas 1 Maccabees places all his trust in God, who can deliver the few from the multitude, for ‘strength comes from Heaven’ and His aid is unconditional, Josephus transfer the focus of deliverance from God to the fighters. Victory is not solely in heaven’s hands, but is also dependent on piety toward God, and thus the fathers were victorious 'because of their righteousness.' To bring this point home, Josephus adds one line with no parallel at all in 1 Maccabees: ‘In doing so there is a mighty force.’”

Gafni presented a number of other examples of how Josephus in Antiquities rewrote 1 Maccabees. From all these examples, Gafni concluded, that according to Josephus, the fighters must be worthy, righteous and willing to die and that the war must be for a just cause, the restoration of Patriarchal Law.[ii] Wars are fought for the preservation of the law and the willingness to die for that law. God does not aid the few and outnumbered but only those “worthy” of assistance. “By adding the motif of God’s alliance with the Hasmoneans, Josephus identified in a stroke the root of their success, and at the same time drew a distinction between the Hasmoneans and the Zealots of his day.”[iii]

According to Gafni, “Josephus had no doubt that the fighters of his day did not fall into that category, for they had defiled the name of God and in a sense had declared war on Him, and not just the Romans (BJ V, 377-78). It was they who had polluted the Temple (BJ V, 280), and in general the whole ‘fourth philosophy’ of the Sicarii was ‘an intrusive ... school’ (A XVIII, 9), an ‘innovation and reform in ancestral traditions’ (ibid). God’s law had been trampled by them, ‘every dictate of religion ridiculed’ (BJ IV, 385).”[iv]

[i] Isaiah Gafni, “Josephus and 1 Maccabees” in Josephus, the Bible, and History edited by Louis H. Feldman and Gohei Hata, 120.
[ii] Gafni, 124.
[iii] Gafni, 127.
[iv] Gafni, 126.

copyrighted 2005